27 Jul 2008
“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Matt. 13:44) (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo
This past week I attended the National Youth Convocation. Also from this parish were Amy Hubbard, Emily Sanderson and my two daughters Kristin and Amanda, and our girls’ chaperone, Shirley Mietlicki-Floyd. The theme of the Convo was Behind the Faith. Just like in Jesus’ parable this morning, we tried to show our kids that this church of ours is a great treasure. [Woman impressed at Convo by our church] We wanted to give the teenagers a background of who we are, and then let them take one of their first concerted steps toward where they want us to go. We explained to them the history of our church, and that’s not always easy. [Story of Bp. Gnat’s sermon, small group session, ? about why did the bp’s brother shoot a peasant] We taught them that one of our principal religious teachings is spiritual freedom, that all church members are enlightened and inspired through the grace imparted at baptism. This respect for the authority of all the baptized in a Catholic setting is special. We tried to uncover this buried treasure that we sometimes take for granted.
This then means that God is best able to speak to us through the combined voice of all His faithful people. Since few if any decisions are ever agreed upon by 100% of the community, we also had to introduce our next generation of church leaders to the practice of our Catholic democracy. We needed to let them experience the workings of presenting an idea, defending it, compromising, coming to a common conclusion, and also understanding that sometimes we may lose some of these verbal battles. The Mock Synod which capped-off our week together helped these young people to understand the privilege of speaking as part of the church, and also its sacred responsibility.
But the importance of church as a community was probably learned and welcomed much more enthusiastically outside of our lectures and Mock Synod. Teenagers from our four American dioceses gathered together along with adult chaperones and clergy, and not only commitment but community took hold. It kind of has to when you’re living and eating together, sharing the same bathroom, and sitting next to each other in the same classroom, but it goes beyond that too. These kids share a common religious up-bringing whether it be in Pittsburgh, Detroit or Chicago, Scranton, Buffalo or South Deerfield. Not only is church larger than the individual, as I hoped they learned in the preparation and workings of the Mock Synod, the church is bigger than any one parish. Parishes are only where we gather locally; church is why we gather there.
I left on Monday along with five girls. That meant that Shirley Mietlicki-Floyd had the privilege of being their actual chaperone, which then freed me up to be the chaperone of the boys on my floor. That’s because we didn’t come just as parishioners; we came as belonging to the same church. Even though my kids were taken care, I needed to help to make sure that others were too. On Wednesday night I called it quits somewhere around midnight. I checked down the dormitory hall and everything was nice and quiet. Assuming that the kids were all in their rooms asleep, I went off to bed. The next day I came to find out that the dorms were nice and quiet because no one was there. They were still at some skit-practices that weren’t on the printed schedules. I went off to bed because I was exhausted and I thought the kids were too, but they were still out doing stuff. I’m sure glad that Shirley’s a better chaperone than I am.
On Wednesday we drove by bus to Horseneck Beach. We lucked out with the weather. It wasn’t a great beach day, but at least it didn’t rain while we were there. But on the way home a storm hit. The buses got separated because some tree branches had fallen and blocked off roads. It was the same storm that hit up in New Hampshire as a tornado. Our Convo president may be out of his summer job because the nursery where he worked was hit. A woman from Toledo, OH had relatives in the NH town you probably all saw on the news. Her relatives were all right, but their neighbour was killed in that storm. Carl Sittard from Westfield had a scary call too. From our previous storms out here it seems that some of the trees in his back yard were weakened. His younger son was at home playing on a swing set, came inside to play video games, then out of nowhere a tree fell over and crushed the swing-set. 15 minutes made all the difference in the world. You know, that kind of stuff helps us to realize that we are more than individuals, parishes or even a church. We can all empathize with the people who were scared while they waited to hear from family or friends up in New Hampshire, can empathize with the person whose neighbour died in that same storm that waited to give us a nice day at the beach, can empathize with a parent who is so grateful for those15 life-saving minutes. After we heard about the tornado in New Hampshire, we started our next session with a prayer for those people. Church isn’t only about feeling our closeness to other people of our shared beliefs; church constantly reminds us that we all are so much more the same than we are different.
I came home with three Convo tee-shirts, a yo-yo that Bp. and Mrs. Gnat presented to all participants, a water bottle that the Fall River parish gave to us all, a Frisbee from our New England district of Spojnia, and a mesh beach bag from the National United Choirs. But most importantly, I came home with a renewed appreciation for our young people. They are good kids. They’re fun kids [Family Feud and commercials – YouTube.com] They do care about this church of ours, and they are willing to work for it. I don’t think they see church the same way as others have, and for that I’m grateful. They may actually change things. I hope they don’t lose their enthusiasm, commitment or spirit as they grow older, and I hope we’re willing to give them the opportunity to do what they think is God’s will. Maybe then this church of ours will be the field with the buried treasure that becomes the prized priority of their lives. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)